3 Notes to Take While Reading to Create the Change You Seek

Jason Lam
2 min readJun 5, 2021
Photo by @felipepelaquim on Unsplash

The way we are tested on reading in traditional schooling has failed us, even when we earned A’s on reading comprehension exams. It’s quite easy to remember information you read, but the real measure of comprehension and — perhaps more important — courage and conviction is applying what you read.

As I read non-fiction nowadays, I have 3 specific notes I take that reveal the true aim and benefit of reading, each of which has its own shorthand to streamline note-taking and reviewing.

#1 — IR (“Important Reminder”)

An “Important Reminder” note is to remember a specific passage, detail, idea, or insight. One that I want to review later and check if I am adhering to an insight whether it helps guide action and perspective or cautions against specific ones.

#2 — KQ (“Key Question”)

Key Questions are just any question I seek to further reflect upon and ask again in the future whether through personal reflection or thinking, or by sharing with others. I store questions in my mental toolbox to either exercise thought or facilitate discussion, or sometimes I even highlight a statement and make a note where I write “KQ” and also a question of my own. The value isn’t having the information. It’s in asking and answering the question.

#3 — TA (“Take Action”)

Straightforwardly, this is just a reminder to do something, especially as the specific action is spelled out for me. It points out exactly that something is to be done and if I review only one thing when I look through my notes again, it would be this notation. I could extract all the “take action” notes from a book and run through them as a checklist to see which ones I’ve taken action on and which ones I haven’t. You can treat such a checklist as a criteria for constructing the life you should be living moving forward.

We don’t always have to follow up on what we read by asking further questions and answering them or even taking action. There’s nothing wrong with reading for pleasure and solely pleasure.

However, I would be remiss to not even consider that there might be some sort of change that should result from my reading. Even if there won’t be one, it’s worthwhile to imagine what such a change might be so you can consider with clarity if it’s one you want. Because if it is and there’s more to do after we put the book down, then we owe it to ourselves to gift us that clarity.